Fresh lemons, easy recipes for summer's main squeeze

You don't have to go to that dry lemonade drink powder. This time of year, the grocery stores are offering deals on fresh lemons. Don't be intimidated. Make your own fresh lemonade. Squeeze out the lemon juice, mix with water and sugar and you will be amazed at the difference and freshness.

Here are some recipes with the exact measurements – and some twists to make it more interesting. I can vouch for the last one – with the maraschino cherries. It's always an attention-getter and fave with guests.

Tried and True: Mushroom variety key to spaghetti

Each week, we'll be using this space to feature a recipe that has been tried and comes highly recommended. Sometimes the recipe and review will come from one of us on staff who loves to cook, and frequently it will come from our food-loving readers.

This recipe from Food Network cook Rachael Ray produced a quick, delicious supper for my husband and I, and there were enough leftovers for a couple lunches or more. The mix of a variety of mushrooms is key, though. I used shiitake, crimini and oyster mushrooms. I also used whole-wheat angel hair pasta. And I had no leeks in the house, so I substituted a whole yellow onion that I cooked along with the mushrooms.

Garden Fresh: Choose spinach for nutrients, minerals

If the rabbits haven't eaten it all, fresh spinach is popping up ripe and ready for eating these days.

Experts love spinach because they've learned – maybe from Popeye – that its nutrients and minerals keep us strong and healthy. Grocery stores offer bags of prewashed spinach that's delicate enough for fresh salads.

UI disables lobbying branch's access to student info

URBANA – The University of Illinois has restricted access to its student-information system following a News-Gazette report that found legislators attempted to influence the admissions process on campus.

The office of government relations, or the university's lobbying branch, was suspended from having access to the UI's Banner system, which includes student information.

House helps special-needs kids become self-sufficient

URBANA – When junior Courtney Osmond learns to make popcorn shrimp, she's also practicing math skills like measuring. When sophomore Stephen Driggers makes a bed, he practices reading, practices following a list of steps.

Achievements like cooking, cleaning and other household skills may sound like chores to most high school students, but to the kids with autism and other special needs in Cristina Godoy's Urbana High School class, these are the steps that lead to an independent life.

Veteran ACES dean named interim provost at UI

URBANA – A veteran dean who continues to teach and do research was designated interim provost at the Urbana campus of the University of Illinois on Tuesday.

Robert A. Easter, the dean of the UI College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, has the job, pending approval by the board of trustees at its July 22 meeting in Chicago.

Urbana school staff, administrators to get raises averaging 4%

URBANA – The Urbana school board on Tuesday night approved increasing salaries for non-union support staff and district administrators by an average of 4 percent for the 2009-10 school year.

That is the same increase teachers will get next year, in the third year of their three-year contract.

Danville school board to talk contract in closed session

DANVILLE – Though they considered the idea of extending the Danville teachers' contract for a year, school district officials said that both sides likely will go forward with collective bargaining this month.

Danville school board members will discuss the upcoming negotiations at a special closed-session meeting on Wednesday. They also will hear student discipline cases.

Danville schools now offering free summer meals

DANVILLE – The Danville school district began its summer meals program this week.

About 50 students, who are attending the 21st century middle school summer school program at South View Middle School, showed up and nibbled on cereal, buttered toast, peaches and milk early Monday morning before heading off to class.

End of consent decree will bring only minor changes

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign school officials won't know until early August if the federal consent decree they've been operating under for the past 7 1/2 years will end.

Whatever happens, there are some things that won't change in the district, namely the programs and systems that have been put in place as a result of the consent decree.